Umberto D.

Carlo Battisti, a professor of linguistics from Florence, gave one of the most iconic and moving performances in world cinema in Vittorio De Sica’s transcendently melancholy study of a penniless, elderly pensioner struggling to eke out a living in Rome with his loyal dog Flike. De Sica’s fifth collaboration with the writer Cesare Zavattini, Umberto D. had a disastrous initial release, but it has come to be recognized as the great swan song of Italian neorealism, and one of the most perfect, emotionally devastating films that the movement ever produced. Zavattini and Francesco Maselli’s Story of Caterina, a segment of the omnibus film Love in the City, features Caterina Rigoglioso, a young, unwed mother adrift with her young son on the streets of Rome after being spurned by her family, reenacting this harrowing episode from her own past. This fascinating, unstable vision of neorealism taken to a limit point suggests the risks and rewards of trying, as Zavattini did, to ensure that there was “no gap between life and what is on the screen.”

Screening with Story of Caterina on November 24 & 29.